1852 California gold bullion coin achieves $150,000

A US 1852 $50 gold bullion coin minted in California has sold for $150,000.

It was among the stars of a January 15 sale of coins and medals hosted by Spink in New York.  

1851 California Humbert

Augustus Humbert was the first official government assayer for California

Known colloquially as a “slug”, the issue was the standard denomination used for large transactions in California during the mid-1850s.

The state was founded on gold.

In 1848, prospector James W Marshall found gold in the Sierra Nevada mountain range – sparking the Gold Rush.

Almost overnight, hundreds of thousands descended on the region.

However, there was no official US Mint in the area. This was a problem, as it meant prospectors who struck gold were forced to sell it on to third parties at a significant discount.

In 1850, the government appointed New York watchmaker Augustus Humbert to be the region’s first official assayer, a role he took on in 1851.

One of his first moves was to start producing these $50 slugs.

Given the local predilection for gold, Californians were singularly opposed to banknotes. They were banned after it became a state of the Union in 1850.  

The 1852 variant is less rare than the 1851 variety, with the record for the date set at $189,000 in a 1999 sale.

The sale also featured an Italian 1810 gold 40 franchi.

The issue was struck under Napoleon’s brief dominion of the region. He intended it to become the standard denomination across Europe.

Very few were ever made and even fewer survive today.  

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